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Will She Still Get VA Benefits If She Divorces Abusive Husband?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am writing to ask you a question about VA benefits. My husband and I are separated. We have been together for 29 years; we've been married for 25 and the last three months have been hell. I'm 62 years old, and he's 68.

He has been emotionally, spiritually and mentally abusive to me over the years, but the last three months have been much worse. He's been continually yelling and screaming and pushing and shoving. It's like I'm not supposed to exist.

One night, he shook a steak knife at me for forgetting to turn on the dishwasher. I was like a deer in headlights -- I couldn't move. He was yelling at me, but I didn't know what he was saying. 

I finally ran into our bedroom, and then I stayed there for six weeks. It was my safe place but also my prison, too. He would bust in and out of the room at all hours of the day and night. He would scare me so badly that I was like a child. I even soiled my sheets. 

Then came the night that he hit me. It's the first time I've ever been beaten by a man. I was so banged up I left the house in an ambulance. I went to a safe house for eight days so I could get a restraining order against him. After that, I was home for just 20 minutes before he was banging on the windows and doors. I called 911, and they caught him in the act. They put handcuffs on him and took him away. 

I'm telling you all of of this to ask this question: Since he caused the separation, how is this going to affect my VA benefits? I've had them for 15 years. I've looked on every web site I can find. I've started in therapy, and I don't want to get stuck with bills. Can I get spousal support? I make only $1,000 monthly, and I need all of that for rent.

Sincerely,
SJ

Dear SJ,

I am very concerned about you. My heart goes out to you right now, and I truly hate that you stayed in an abusive relationship for so many years. I hope you can get the support that you need from close friends and family and that you will never go back to this relationship. You need help on many levels.

First, you should have safety plan and have some codes and signals worked out for others, like your neighbors, so they will know when you need help. Always keep this number with you: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). I hope a counselor discussed these plans with you while you were at the safe house.

Second, please call the Department of Veterans Affairs with your questions about your benefits. As long as you are married to your husband, I don't see why anything will change, but things may change if and when you divorce him. I don't want to give you the wrong information, so call the VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Finally, regarding spousal support: You should contact an attorney for legal advice. It doesn't sound like your husband will volunteer to provide support for you. You may need a court order to make him support you. I know this is stressful for you, but you can use this experience to jump start a new life. You are still a young woman and you can have a bright future. Remember what George Eliot said: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

 I'll be thinking about you. Keep in touch.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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